Mar 12, 2011

Not *the* definition of (Epic) Fantasy but *my* definition of (Epic) Fantasy

Last night, a friend of mine asked me what Epic Fantasy was when I mentioned Patrick Rothfuss to her. She knew what Fantasy was, but did not know what Epic Fantasy was. This got me thinking. More or less, the first essay I had in mind which attempted to define Epic Fantasy was by Vox Day here, and I found it appalling and slightly offensive to what I stand for: creativity and imagination. Consider the following definition from Vox Day and his girlfriend:
"An epic fantasy is a very long and fundamentally serious story set mostly or entirely in a fantastic secondary world, typically defined by the existence of magic and often fleshed out with maps, appendices, and other paratextual devices; it's usually an encyclopediac, stylistically direct, structurally uncomplicated story in which characters notable for their active agency combat (against) a defined evil, often by forming an alliance, and generally are involved with a world-transformative event."
As a veteran reader, an aspirant writer, and an aspirant academic fantasist, I see this definition as the answer of why Epic Fantasy suffers as it does, but that is a different discussion.
While thinking of ways to explain what (Epic) Fantasy was to my friend, I thought of some of the memorable Epics in the genre such as "A Wizard of Earthsea", "The Wheel of Time" and "The Chronicles of Narnia". I thought of Epics that are large in volume, but worthy of reading without wasting words. I thought of how we writers and readers should begin calling our genre "Fantasy Literature" instead of "Fantasy Fiction". I thought of the sub-genres of Fantasy which plays on an Epic scale. I thought of people of color such as Yoon Ha Lee, Saladin Ahmed, David Anthony Durham, and Nnedi Okorafor. I thought of how fantasy can change the minds of people. I thought of Maya Angelou's quote. Thinking on these things, I created a definition which implies to what I stand for on a humanist scale, a racial scale, and a speculative scale.
Consider *my own* definiton of Fantasy; Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, etc. :
"Fantasy-Speculative literature which aims to both entertain an audience while simultaenously educating said audience using either a created secondary world or an alternative Earth in hopes of changing an individual's perceptions of some part of the real world."